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Let's borrow a leaf from JSC on how to pick our leaders

By Elias Mokua | April 22nd 2021
Senior Counsel Philip Murgor is interviewed at the Supreme court building on Friday, April 16, 2021, by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for the position of Chief Justice. [Collins Kweyu, standard]

Well done Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for publicly scrutinising the candidates for the Chief Justice position.

While following the proceedings, I realised the potential we have as a country to further right our institutions through proper recruitment of civil servants, including the Executive and  MPs.

Competitive companies, all for-profit organisations and indeed not-for-profit organisations painstakingly search for their CEOs because they know the head figure not only carries the vision but also embodies the spirit of staying afloat.

Kenya is struggling on many fronts: Corruption, debt burden, terror threats, falling standards in sports, low productivity in agriculture and so forth.

But, how do we hire our national CEO?

Simple. As per the Constitution, a candidate for president should be a Kenyan citizen by birth; be qualified to stand for election as MP; nominated by a political party or be an independent candidate  and be nominated by not fewer than 2,000 voters from each of a majority of the counties. In addition, one should at least have a university degree and must get clearance from the police.

Since we Kenyans desire prosperity and plenty within our borders, we cannot be too casual with how we elect our CEO and other leaders.

We ought to change for the better. Our electoral process is weak in sifting the suitability and integrity of candidates. It has two major problems.

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First, it suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect which states that incompetent people overestimate their capacities. Worse, incompetent fellas have the guts to be super confident, behaving and aspiring for elective posts without the required knowledge.

Charles Darwin adds that “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”. Often, we gift cunningly underserving chaps.

A few elected leaders would pass the JSC-type interview. Regrettably, there are many candidates out there who are not even aware that they are incompetent. As long as they create a voter base and win the election, they consider themselves performers.

Second, our electoral process is vulnerable to the imposter syndrome. Good, wise, ethically sound candidates fear they are not good enough to vie for elective seats.

Consequently, majority of those suffering from the Dunning Kruger effect end up populating seats in the county assemblies and Parliament.

Potentially solid, diligent candidates suffering from the imposter syndrome do not realise how flawed other candidates are.

The architect of our election process is such that many credible candidates shy away from soiling their names in the company of people with illusory superiority.  

Majority of voters will not have had access to the kind of information JSC supported by the PSC would, if it were to do the shortlisting on behalf of the citizens.

Only candidates publicly scrutinised the way the search for CJ is being done should stand for an elective seat.

Voters are often treated to disinformation and misinformation by campaign strategists. This denies conscientious voters the necessary information to decide whom to vote for.

We should not be victims of the imposter syndrome in finding local electoral solutions never tried elsewhere.

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communications


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